Thursday, April 29, 2010

Running questions first

I got mostly running questions, so I'll start with those.  The other ones (NELP, meat eating, and tattoos) will come next. 

DISCLAIMER:  I'm still relatively new to running, so these answers are based on my limited experience, and a little bit of research.

What is a tempo run and how and why should you do these?
I had what I thought was a very clear understanding of what a tempo run is, but when I checked around the internet, I got a lot of confusing/contradicting definitions.  Hal Higdon, whom I totally love and trust because I have used all of his training programs, defines it this way:

This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. I consider Tempo Runs to be the "Thinking Runner's Workout." A Tempo Run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it, and it has nothing to do with how long (in time) you run or how far. In fact, the times prescribed for Tempo Runs serve mainly as rough guidelines. Feel free to improvise. Improvisation is the heart of doing a Tempo Run correctly.

And my more simple explanation is this:  Let's say you're going to run 3 miles.  You'd run 1 mile at a comfortable/ warm up pace, run the 2nd mile at a faster pace that requires you to push it to hold it, and then run the 3rd mile at the more comfortable/ cool down pace.  This is a way for your body to learn how to run faster. 

Why does a tempo run help you run faster?  When you run at a faster, more difficult pace, your lactic acid builds up in your running muscles.  If you build up too much lactic acid, you can't maintain the pace and you have to stop.  But if you build up the lactic acid (by running faster) for a short period of time, your body becomes more efficient at removing the lactic acid, and the next time you run, your body won't build up as much lactic acid, and that is how you train yourself to run faster. 

And I know I'm still a slow runner, but I have gotten steadily faster by using tempo runs and progression runs (when you just increase your speed gradually over the course of a run) on the treadmill. 

What are your personal "must haves" while running? 
(clothing, gear, hydration stuff, watches etc)
This is a fun one to talk about, because half the fun of any sport is the gear, right?
Clothing:  I really like Nike tempo shorts  Nike Varsity Royal Womens Tempo Short (S=4-6)  because they are the most comfortable of all of the ones I have, and they come in every color.  I'm serious.    In cooler weather, I wear Patagonia running tights.  For tops, I have piles of running shirts of all brands and sleeve length.  I am not picky about the tops, and often get what's at TJ Max or Target, though I will say that I prefer everything Nike for running gear. I don't have any trouble with chafing, but a lot of my friends can't wear shirts that have wide seams on the inside.   I either wear a lightweight running hat or wear my hair back in a hair band.  I prefer a snug-fitting sports bra, but I have several different brands.  If you are large-chested, the place to shop for sports bras that everyone swears by is Title 9.
Watch:  I have a pretty basic Nike running watch called the Triax Nike Triax Fury 100 Style Watch (Black/Red)that I love.  I always like to have a watch, and I'm kind of obsessive about recording my times down to the second to track my progress.  But what I REALLY want is a GPS that will track my distance and pace too.  I used to laugh at these when I saw them on people when I first started running because they are so huge on your wrist, but it's funny how your viewpoint changes.  I plan to ask for one for Christmas next year.  Here it is, honey, right here for you.  Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor
See Sarah's excellent point about running with watches/ GPSs in the comment section.

Hydration:  I run with my CamelbakCamelbak Rogue 70 Oz Hydration Pack, Racing Red/Charcoal on my back filled with diluted Gatorade on any run longer than about 6 or 7 miles.  I'm really used to it, and I find that I miss it when I don't have it. A few of my friends, including my bad ass friend Sarah, prefer hand-held bottlesNathan Quickdraw Plus Handheld 22-Ounce Bottle Carrier with Pocket (Black)for long-distances.

Fuel:  I have tried a lot of different products, and have settled on Luna Moons Luna Sport Moons Energy Chews Blueberry, 1.05-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)
or GuGu Energy Gel Chocolate Outrage, 24 packs or mini Luna bars.Luna Minis, Variety Pack (Nuts Over Chocolate, S'mores, & Caramel Nut Brownie), .7-Ounce Bars 18 Count ( Pack of 2 ).  The recommended fueling pattern is to take something after about an hour of running and then every 30- 45 minutes after that for as long as you are running.  In the marathon, I was surprised how often I needed to eat something.  I felt totally empty just about every 30 minutes.  Bananas also work very well for me, but they are obviously too hard to carry, so you can only use them if you stash some at a pit stop.  Many people have bad stomach reactions to some of these products, so you should just experiment a bit to see works for you. 

Is it normal to be so freaked out by the realization that after my race this weekend that I will wake up Monday morning and NOT have a race to train for that I have been scouring the internet for races to sign up for?????

This is exactly how I feel, and how my running friends feel too (especially Jen.  Hi Jen!).  This is why right before a race, we start talking about what's next.  We start "scouring the internet" for a race a few months down the line.  I've talked about this a lot before, but once you get used to the discipline of following a training schedule, you quickly become dependent on having a race goal for motivation to keep going.  Having a race on the calender for me is also about planning a social event, because often a race means a trip with my girls, a hotel, and some great meals out in restaurants, so it's a very fun thing to plan and look forward to.  We all said that we weren't going to do a fall marathon, but now that our spring marathon is approaching, we've been (Jen has been) tossing all kinds of ideas around. 

Besides, let's be honest.  Running (and the events that surround it) has become my sole source of a social life. 

How do you find time with the kids to do it? When do you run? Morning/Afternoon/Evening?
I actually wrote a post about our schedule and how we manage to get all the training in (my husband is a competitive swimmer) right here. I would like to think that I could pull off an early morning run before work and then it would be done, but I can't seem to bring myself to run in the dark.  I see people out there in the middle of a Maine winter, in the dark, and I think "you, my friend, are way more hardcore than I am."  Now that the mornings are brighter, I'm going to give it a try one or two mornings a week for the rest of the school year.

The main thing I'd like to empasize about finding time to run is that I just make the time.  It is so important to me, that I just make it happen, even if it is inconvenient.
And just out of pure curiosity- what's the longest you've run on a treadmill?
The longest I have ever run on a treadmill is 10 miles, and it wasn't so bad, because I don't hate the treadmill like most runners do.  And I'll tell you more about that in the next answer.

Do you have any advice on how to keep up with running in the winter?
I can't help you here if you only want to run outside, because I have a very hard time with that too.  I find that the cold air hurts my lungs and my face, and my feet get numb and it just plain sucks.  However, I'm going to give a plug to treadmill running in the winter.  If you can manage a few 3-5 mile runs a week on a treadmill, you can maintain what you gained during the warmer months.  AND, if you can do a lot of speed work/ tempo runs/ progression runs, then you won't get bored.  Well, I don't.  On a treadmill, I really like to push myself by upping the pace.  I like to see what people around me are running, and I try to run faster than they are.  Frankly, when I'm on a treadmill, I can finish a run faster because I get tired of watching the clock tick by, so I just start making it go faster and faster until I am really haulin' over the last mile.  I love that.  This kind of training helped me gain a bit of speed this year (speed!  that's relative!), and it made it so I didn't get bored.  Also, at the gym there are people to watch, and at my gym, there is a bank of tvs, and I also enjoy music on my ipod a lot more at the gym than I do outside, for some reason.

I do try to get outside for a run in the winter whenever it is above 25 degrees or so, and I always appreciate the change of scenery and the fresh air, but 90% of my winter running is on a treadmill.  Hope that helps!

Did you ever get shin splints from running on pavement for so many miles? Especially in the beginning of getting into distance running years ago? 

Yikes, my answer might totally disapoint you, because I only had minor shin splints when I first started running, and once I built up some running muscles, I never had anything but minor aches and pains.  I have been sooooo lucky and have avoided injury so far, when most of my friends have had issues with stress fractures or tendon problems.  

Do you do most of your stretching after a run? 

Umm... should I be stretching after a run?  Again, I don't think I'm typical here at all.  I don't stretch before I run, and after a run, I walk around in a few circles, do some runner's lunges and stand on my step to stretch my calves, and then I call it good.  Some folks have a whole systematic stretching routine, and I guess I would if I felt like I needed it, but I never feel like I need to.  After long runs, what feels best to me is to soak my legs and feet in cold water.

And what are your thoughts on flexibility and preventing injury in distance running?

I know I'm pretty flexible already, so maybe that is the answer to why I've avoided injury.   I honestly am not a great person to help you here, but look here for a great article about injury prevention for runners.  I've used a DVD called Yoga for Runners that feels great and stretches out all the right muscles, so I bet that would help.

So what do you think--for a very beginning beginner, is it ok to just sort of repeat weeks if I feel like it or is this kind of like cheating?

This question is from Kirsten who is in week 3 of a couch-to-5K program.   And I would say yes, that it's okay to repeat a week until you feel ready to increase your running, of course!  If you feel like you are getting a good workout, and if you have plenty of time to progress through the program, then take your time!  I will say here that I really recommend choosing a race at some point and registering for it so that you have a goal on your calendar, but if you are enjoying the program as much as you are, Kirsten, then I think you should feel no pressure and just wait until your current routine feels easier to you and then move up.

Wondering if you have any books/websites to recommend for someone looking to start running more seriously.

I don't know of many books that are directed at runners who run for the sake of running, but I have read some great books about endurance running and marathon training (which is what you'll do next, right?), and here are the ones I recommend. 

 Born to Run :   The subtitle is:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  Is that not intriguing?  This is a GREAT read.

 Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women.  This out-of-shape woman commits to a marathon and then writes her tale of getting to the finish line.  It made me laugh out loud quite a bit.
 The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women: Get Off Your Butt and On with Your Training

And this guy, John Bingham, is such a good and funny guy who describes himself as a "back of the pack runner," which I am too, so I love him.   He spoke at the Team in Training dinner before my marathon, and he made me laugh so hard I cried.  Here are two of his excellent books.
The Courage to Start:  A Guide to Running for your Life
The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life
Marathoning for Mortals
 Marathoning for Mortals

And, my ALL TIME FAVORITE BLOG is a running blog.  Marathon Mama:  She is so freaking smart and funny, and you will love her blog. (and not that this is a big deal to me or anything (!!!!!!), she has now put up a link to my blog on her blog.)

I seem to have developed a mental block on running outdoors. I enjoy it and want to do more, but I simply cannot keep running the whole time. I get way out of breath and have to take walking breaks on shorter distances than my track runs where I go with no breaks. And I'm fairly positive my pace is consistent. Is it really that much harder to negotiate fairly easy terain than it is to run circles on the cushy track?

Hmmm... my guess is that the wind and uneven pavement is not enough to make so much of a difference, and that your difficulties are just mental.  But then again, I'm so tired of writing right now that I think I've lost my own mental stamina.  My very best answer is:  run your route outside for the next while until you can run it without stopping, and then you'll know that you can do it.  How's that?  Kind of lame.  Sorry.

Where are your favorite places to shop and who has the best deals?

Besides Target and TJ Max, we all use Running Warehouse because they have tons of stuff, and free shipping in both directions, so you can buy a bunch of stuff and then return what doesn't fit. 

Is it too much to ask for a reasonably priced running bra that offers some support but isn't torture to get on and off?

This one is very expensive, but you should hear some of the passionate testimonials I've read about this sports bra.  Meet your new best friend.

Good grief.  My eyes are bleeding.  Hope that I helped some of you out, and now I go to bed.

Go Poetry!

Quick background:  My student Will was the 2-time Maine state champion for Poetry Out Loud, an amazing national poetry recitation contest.  Last year, I went to Washington DC for Nationals with him, where he placed in the top 12.

Will just got home from this year's trip to Nationals yesterday, where he placed in the top 24 but was unfortunately eliminated after the 2nd round.  An oral interpretation of a poem is an art, and therefore it's difficult to predict how the judges will choose a winner.  And having watched the 53 performers last year, I can tell you, there are all so amazing.  Will is so talented at reciting poetry, and has such a beautiful voice, that he has gotten quite a lot of local attention (poetry readings, school board meetings, an all-school pep rally,  and an NPR interview).  After hearing him recite one of his poems at the school committee meeting, a school administrator said to me:  "The world stops when that kid starts reciting poetry, doesn't it?"  It sort of does, actually, yes.

But even cooler has been watching Will's confidence grow immensely over the course of this experience.  Last night, 2 hours after he got off the plane from DC,  he recited one of his poems at the event "Poets Speak" at the Bangor Public Library, and he was so comfortable up there talking about his experience in front of a room full of people, that I had to give him the slice-across-the-neck signal to get him to wrap it up. 

I can report from the front lines, that Poetry Out Loud has made teenagers talk about, care about, and love poetry in a way that I had never seen before.   It is a beautiful thing.  And Will, though he is bummed that he didn't advance to finals this year, can now focus on graduating from high school and moving on to Harvard.  Can't wait to see what this boy does from here.

Quick story:  Last year in Washington, during our semi-final round where 18 state finalists competed, I sat in the audience with my Aunt Ann and cousin Paige (both former English teachers) and Will's family.  We were rapt by the performers, took frantic notes on our thoughts, and predicted that two of the performers would most definitely go on to the finals:  Will (of course) and a young woman named Amber from Rhode Island.  When the winners were chosen, Will's name was read, but Amber's was not.  We had all chosen her as a sure pick, and were shocked that she didn't move on.  I even went and talked to her family after the competition and told them that we all thought she had been robbed. 

So, it turns out that 4 of last year's state champs, including Will, won their state again, and returned to Nationals.  Amber of Rhode Island was one of them, and I found out on Monday that she made the final round this year, so I was really excited because I knew she would feel totally redeemed.  Okay, there's your back story.

Now, check THIS out.  Even the British are talking about it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Any Questions?

I've been asked three or four questions lately about running or cooking via email, and I've also been encouraged by some very persuasive people to do regular Q an A sessions on the blog, where you ask me a few questions and I write the answers in a blog post, and so I'm thinking about finally doing it.

Frankly, I've been really timid to do this because I am no expert on any of this stuff, but, I'm going to be brave and ask for your suggestions and then do my best.  Anything you'd like to ask about marathon training, teaching, baking, or parenting two wild kids? 

There must be some of you out there who just started running, or are thinking about maybe someday starting to run and have some questions?  Would you like to know just how old our house is?  Or how often we actually drink green monsters?  What my favorite book is?  Favorite poet?

So, comment or email, but ask away.  You can ask me anything and I'll answer it.  I think.

What's for Dinner?

A VERY easy one:

Bucatini pasta with pesto, topped with sliced and sauteed feta/spinach chicken sausage* and roasted brussel sprouts.   This is not homemade pesto, just jarred, but as soon as I start getting bunches of basil from the farm share, I'll be making my own again.

*These chicken sausages come in about 5 varieties from the "all natural" meat section of our grocery store.  I usually get the chicken apple sausage, but we also like the roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato kinds.  I use them for quick dinners about once a week, and it has sort of turned into the only meat we regularly eat. 

I've been photographing the food on our back deck, and when I walked out the door with a plate in hand, Skyler said to herself:  "mom's giving her dinner some fresh air again."

Monday, April 26, 2010

The very best day, part two

After hiking down Beech Mountain on Sunday, it was only noon, and we had sunshine and two kids who weren't done playing, so Sam drove us here, to a spot we'd been kayaking many years ago with my mom, dad, and sister Liesel.

We planted ourselves on the dock and ended up staying right there, sunning ourselves like seals for almost 2 hours.  There was no one around.

Skyler chatted, Reed threw rocks.  So simple.

And me? Lying on a dock of a lake in Maine is about the happiest place you could put me.

Sam took over making sure the kids didn't fall into the water, and I got lost in my thoughts and the sunshine and breeze.  I rolled over onto my stomach after a while and looked out at this:

Finally, Sam pried me away back to the car, where we changed the kids out of their soaking wet clothes and into fresh fleece pjs.  I climbed into the front seat, and the kids were all cozy in their car seats, and I said:  "Can I get a family cheer for today?"  (It's a thing we do.)  And they both said:  "GO MANHARTS!"  And Sam clicked on the Sox game on AM radio, and I had a happiness seizure.

And that, my friends, is what we call "a fine Maine day."

(and on the way home, the kids talked and talked and talked, until they were so tired that they started screaming and drooling and freaking out and saying things that made no sense and crying, but in my memory of this day, I select that 30 minute period with my mouse and delete it)

The very best day, part one.

For the grand finale of spring break, we climbed Beech Mountain on Acadia National Park on Sunday.  I feel like I can't possibly talk about our day without excessive, annoying superlatives and exclamation marks, so I'll just show you.

Reed and Skyler climbed all the way up by themselves, their very first mountain climb.  Up, up, up they go.

At every turn, Skyler kept saying:  "This is so amazing."

We ate lunch and lounged around on top for about an hour.  Warming sunshine.

Because it is so steep and rocky, we decided to carry Reedo down in the backpack, and he talked my ear off the whole way down. 
"This is such a great walk, mommy." "Sure is a sunny day!"  "I'm so tired from all this walking!"  "I don't want to go home!"  "I want to stay on this mountain for da whole day!"  "Wow, what a lovely day, mom."  "That sure is a beautiful tree!"

Check out the view on the way down.

Reed also told me he really wanted to throw rocks in a lake before we drove home, and so, Sam found us a perfect spot to do just that.  And that will be part 2 of our very best day.